The US Should Consider Removing Nukes From Turkey

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

b-61-bomb-rackHaving seen recent events culminating with the failed coup to oust Turkish leader Erdogan and the onset of his Orwellian crackdown against the judiciary, academics and any others perceived to be a threat to his increasingly autocratic rule, the time has come for the United States and subsequently the NATO alliance to reconsider whether Turkey is stable enough to host a nuclear stockpile.

New Yorker Magazine, quoting Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Incirlik Airbase holds about fifty B-61 thermonuclear bombs–more than twenty-five percent of the nuclear weapons in the NATO stockpile. The dial-a-yield of these bombs can be adjusted from 0.3 kilotons to as many as one hundred seventy kilotons. For comparison, the yield of the Little Boy device that destroyed Hiroshima is estimated at fifteen kilotons.

During the coup attempt, the Turkish government closed Incirlik to all travel and cut off its power, forcing operations command to rely on back-up generators. The base’s commander was temporarily detained. The coup only hastened and to a much greater extent expanded the suppression of civil liberties and dissent.

The Erdogan government accuses dissident Fethullah Gulen, currently living in exile within the United States, of organizing the coup and warned the United States that it would be making a “great mistake” if extradition was not granted.

The dictatorial becoming of Mr. Ergodan should come as a strong worry especially when met with the inevitable backlash against his rule could pose a risk of proliferation if these weapons are not secured.


Concern over nuclear weapons within Turkey is not without precedent. During the 1960’s the weapons were technically under the custody of United States Officers but in actuality physically under the control of servicemen of the militaries of Greece, Turkey, Italy, and Germany who handled the weapons while in use.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. Secretary of Defense McNamara had grave concern that Turkish officers might on their own volition and without explicit authorization launch nuclear attacks against the Soviets. He ordered U.S. troops to sabotage the missiles if any were readied to be launched. Later, the weapons were equipped with Permissive Action Links to remove the danger of unauthorized launch.

In 1974 when Greece and Turkey nearly went to war, the United States removed all nuclear weapons from Greece and rendered all such weapons in Turkey inoperative.

Further cause for concern is that Incirlik Air Base is only about seventy miles from the Syrian border and serves as a staging base for U.S. strikes against ISIS. The involvement of Turkey in the anti-terrorist effort made the nation a natural target of jihadis and it would be folly to ignore that Incirlik and its stockpile of nukes would not make a very tempting goal.

Mr. Ergodan has not been a fully willing partner in the effort to wrest ISIS and al-Qaeda from the Levant. Kurdish sources, have alleged and shown considerable evidence to support that two years ago Turkey was actually allowing supplies to jihadists and anti-Syrian militias to pass through the nation and more recently Turkey was embarrassed when it was revealed that the nation was turning a blind eye to allowing tanker-trucks to import oil from ISIS controlled refineries–a source of hard case for the terrorist organization. Now, it seems Turkey’s acquaintance with these groups has gone sour at the very least.

If there it is any indication as to what could happen if Erdogan abandoned the West in favor of a posture of isolation and hegemony having a nuclear-armed dictator could be very destabilizing in the region.

From another perspective the removal of the B-61s might have the effect of cooling tensions with the Russians.

As part of the negotiations to end the Cuban Missile Crisis with the Soviets, the United States agreed to remove all “Jupiter” ballistic missiles from Turkey; the presence of which was a source of considerable worry for the Soviet Union.

By Darren Smith

Source: The New Yorker

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

55 thoughts on “The US Should Consider Removing Nukes From Turkey”

  1. Interesting point @ 12:46.

    World is a very complicated place.

    We’re fools to believe there are simple solutions. Or that isolationism is a remedy.

  2. It’s a pleasure to read this post and today’s comments. Thoughtful and without sneer and snarl. I think the nukes should go. Erdogan is too unstable now. However, that will not make him happy and we may just lose our base there, too. That won’t help with our problem with ISIS and Assad and all those millions of displaced and suffering Syrians.

    Much bad stuff there. Too much to toss Poland into the mix.

    Pity the next president. Pray we get a good one.

    1. Rose, unless another candidate jumps into the fray, or Jill Stein is elected, looks like a prayer for either Trump or Hillary to be a good president is a wasted prayer.
      And this from one who believes in the power of prayer 🙂

      1. No one, absolutely no one, could be a worse President than Obama. A lot of white people voted for him hoping for positives results against racism. Sorry, no cigar. He isn’t even moving back to Chicago. Fortunately he has a daughter with one more school year. Her parents would like her to finish at the DC private school rather than move when leaving office. Not an unusual decision, most parents wouldn’t want their daughter moving to a different school half way through her final year. Does anyone think they will ever go back to Chicag?

  3. As for the islamification and reislamification of Turkey being the problem, how do you deal with the fact that the secularism of Turkey was imposed militaristically? And that Islam (which defines Turkish identity) was repressed and fought in Turkey? Where the veil was deemed illegal? Where the Armenian massacre and the oppression of kurds happen all under an anti-islam regime!
    Oddly, Erdogan is actually using the tools of the west to snatch Turkey’s rule from under the jaws of military control. Whatever he is doing, whether we agree with it or not is squarely within the possibilities/limits of Western democracy 🙂

    Here is another great breakdown of the Turkish affair:

  4. Po

    The crux of the problem is the US and other countries, such as Germany kow towing to this quasi islamic dictator. Erdogan rivals Trump as a loose cannon: Muslims discovered America. Don’t say bad things about me. A purge of the intelligensia not seen since Pol Pot, etc. The Kurds number in the millions and have no place other than where they are subjected to dictators’ moods. Saddam gassed them by the thousands. Erdogan and his predecessors step on them.

    Iraq has only been Iraq since WW1 ended, the same with Syria. These countries are not true reflections of a people. They were purposefully designed to be only controlled by a manageable strong man. This gave Great Britain, France, and later the US the ability to manipulate the area by manipulating the leaders. It was so in Iran, Iraq, and Syria. When Iranians threw off the foreign yoke Iran became an unmanageable country for the West. However, eventually all countries must be designed by their people and will come to work with the rest of the world. Iran’s obstinacy is a result of having been manipulated for centuries by others and that being on a war footing makes it more manaeagable. How else could an idiot like W Bush get elected a second time-a fact of life.

    The problems in Iraq would be more easily settled if the country was governed locally by each of the three main groups. The Kurds already administer a large part of Northern Iraq and have enough oil to support an economy. There is no historical claim on this area by Iraq as Iraq is a recent and manufactured entity, as is Syria.

    The crux of the problem is that the West, including the US, does not see that a strong Kurdistan, supported militarily by the US would benefit US interests in the area. Air bases in a new Kurdistan would/could be exempt from being there at the whim of a religious dictator. Kurdistan would depend on the US and European military powers to maintain sovereignty. The cross border problems with Turkey would work themselves out in time as there would be no need for a terrorist or other sort of rebel group.

    Turkey would then have the choice of going militarily against an ally of the US and other fellow NATO members, never getting into the European Union, or sucking it up. Turkey would also, eventually, get rid of its Kurdish problem.

    An independent Kurdistan is a win, win, win, win, scenario.

    As far as NATO being the good or bad guy, one could take either position as both are correct. As with much of the entities in the world, from always and continuing, it is all about the balance between influence and power. The world is built on trade. Even the backward Islamic world depends entirely on trade. People want to live well in their own neighborhood, with their own kind or at least people who are not a threat. An independent Kurdistan solves more problems of this sort than it creates. All the benefits are long term with the potential of bettering the conditions of all in the area. All the problems are short term and can be negotiated out.

    One thing to remember, it is essentially the Islamification or reIslamification of Turkey that is behind most of its problems. Turkey has been a stable and socially evolving nation the more secular and democratic it has been. Ataturk had this in mind. Erdogan is a step backwards both as pertains to the medieval religion of Islam as well as the establishment of a dictatorial rule, depriving human rights.

    1. As usual Isaac, the good points you make are lost in the emotional trade off of your anti religious bent.
      Whatever you said could have been said without tainting your argument with islamophobia. Discussing Turkey while using the words medieval religion of Islam/backward islamic is to make and counter your own point simultaneously.
      But…you are once again seeing the problem from your an only your own personal stance. It has no bearing here. The question is why is Erdogan doing what he does? Is it because of what Isaac thinks, or is it because of what Erdgogan thinks?
      If latter, then the idea of creating a kurdistan by Turkey being a win, win, win scenario isn’t. We know why the US wants (yes, counter to your view, the US and the west want a Kurdistan, if only for their ability to control it strategically and for oil) and is helping build a kurdistan, we also know why the kurds are…why would Erdogan want a kurdistan?

      As for Syria and Iraq being recent…in what history? Both were already established civilizations before the “West” started eating with cutlery and used indoor plumbing…yes, backward!

    2. Unfortunately I don’t know where the article was. It lists IQs of approximately ten former Presidents, but President George W. Bush had the highest IQ of them all. You might have disagreed with him,
      but he was definitely not an idiot. The plan to leave troops in Iraq, much like South Korea, was a deterrent until Obama took them out. For no reason. I know his lie, one of so many, was blamed on protecting our soldiers from prosecution if in battle someone was killed. That agreement had already been reached by VP Cheney. Consequently we have ISIS and thousands, eventually millions, killed. And, the Middle East and Europe are in chaos. Obama may have been inept, but I vote for Treason.

  5. issacbasonkavich
    1, July 23, 2016 at 8:47 am
    The US should help the Kurds develop an independent Kurdistan that stretches from the now Kurd administered areas in Northern Iraq through Northern Syria to the Med.
    Isaac, that is actually the crux of the problem. US rapprochement with the Kurds is actually the main dividing factor with Erdogan. In his eyes, every move we make that doesn’t help him counter the kurds is betrayal, and in light of the fact that that was the deal we had with him all along, it is betrayal.
    Now he has been moving away from Russia and helping dismantle Syria, and all he got from it is not only the US special forces embedding with the kurds, but “possibly” supporting a coup against him.

    Let’s establish one fact here:
    NATO is NOT the good guy, it is rather an evil force that is behind much of the upheaval in the world. It is the tool by which the corporations and their political allies do the dirty business of world domination.
    Here is an insightful article showing the extent of such:

  6. One of the “side deals” of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was that the U.S. would remove its nuclear missles from Turkey, in “exchange for” the Soviets pulling theirs out of Cuba.
    The nukes in Turkey were said to be obsolete and scheduled for removal even before this “concession” to the Soviets.
    And the U.S. already had a huge arsenal of short-to-medium range missles on the USSR’s doorstep, based in a number of countries.
    Anyway, this Turkey/Erdogan/ nuke issue has me wondering…..does anybody know when the U.S. reintroduced nukes to Turkey after removing them under JFK?

    1. Does anyone know for certain how many nukes are in what countries, and who put them there? Once more than one country, USA, means jeopardy where nukes are concerned. Or what condition they’re in. I think we ought to nuke North Korea as a test. I know, lots of death. But a quick death rather than slow starvation.

  7. I always take the nukes and the dressing out of the turkey before I serve it.

  8. NATO doesn’t need Turkey; Israel does. If NATO ejects Turkey, it’s of no import. Religious states need not apply.

    I suggest the US start spreading the wealth internationally at the expense of standard of living and roll back the empire. Our current economic and resulting foreign policies are unsustainable in terms of peaceful relationships, quality of life, collective health, and the environment, across the globe. If NATO breaks up, many and perhaps many of us and our major urban centers will not survive the next war.

    Got children?

  9. I suggested the other day that we close our bases and move out of Turkey. I now second the motion.

  10. Who controls the world’s nukes? Stable and reasonable folks? Narcissistic kooks? Those who resent centuries of oppression? Brutal dictators? Drug-addled incompetent technicians? All of those kinds of people have, do, and will control nukes. One or more of them is highly likely to accidentally or purposely destroy humanity. Nukes are not a deterrent to violence. They are assurance of the end of life on Earth in the foreseeable future.

  11. The US should help the Kurds develop an independent Kurdistan that stretches from the now Kurd administered areas in Northern Iraq through Northern Syria to the Med. The Kurds would be strategic allies of the US and a staging ground to launch attacks on the thugs, a buffer between Turkey and the thugs, and a reminder that puppet regimes can be made to the advantage of Western interests. The Kurds that are making trouble for Turkey could move over the border.

    A new Kurdistan would have the oil revenue to get off the ground, access to the Med, and Syria would have to either accept it or be beaten by the best fighters in the area, the Kurds, backed by the US. Assad would be blocked. The first in many steps of creating countries around ethnic and religious concentrations would be taken. Iraq could be a confederation of three semi or fully autonomous states: Sunni, Shia, Kurd.

    Continuing with the same problems that never seem to get solved is, perhaps, not the way to go. After all Great Britain and France artificially created Iraq, Syria, and Palestine after WW1. They did so to create a tension that they could manipulate. This tension is no longer viable. Time to redesign.

  12. Autumn..Putin has made it clear he wants the old Russian Empire back. He has stated that this dismantling of the Soviet Union is a humiliation he wants to rectify. If I were a Pole, I’d be concerned.

  13. @Justice Holmes

    I’m well aware of their history – but fail to understand why now.

  14. Autumn, as history shows Russia has been smacking Poland for centuries.

  15. The nukes can rendered inoperable, but should be physically removed from Turkey.

    While Ergodan gets under Obama’s skin, it is interesting to note that Vladimir Putin,
    Bashar al-Assad & Kim Jong-Un want to meet Trump & do some deals.

    The art of a deal? Its going to be huge!

  16. @po

    I’m curious – why do you think Russia would “smack” Poland?

    1. Autumn, not because Russia particularly wants to, but Poland is acting like the lap dog barking the loudest. It is through Poland that much of the demonization of Russia is happening. Additionally, with NATO/US putting up a missile system in Poland, Romania, and their neighbors as first line of attack against Russia, Poland will be one of the first places to be obliterated when Russia has finally had enough.

  17. Obama hasn’t the courage to push for any changes in NATO or its weaponry. Six months from now he will be gone, thank God. Would Hillary do anything? She’d probably screw it up if she did. Trump would want action from NATO and I think they would fear him. Turkey would one its nukes.

  18. “”If there it is any indication as to what could happen if Erdogan abandoned the West in favor of a posture of isolation and hegemony having a nuclear-armed dictator could be a very destabilizing in the region.””
    ———————-Erdogan would not go at it alone, he is currently working on repairing ties with Israel, Israel and Russia and therefore moving away from US and NATO.
    Without Turkey, US and NATO lose a great strategic spot, one they will miss more than it will miss them.
    Europe is coming apart at the seams anyway and it won’t take much to dismantle it for good.
    The question is how long will NATO survive?
    How patient will Russia remain before the antagonizing?
    Which European country will step up to Russia when she smacks Poland and Ukraine? None!
    Will the US step up and attack RUssia when that happens? No!

    One thing that can’t be glossed over is this thing, and it is the same thing that keeps repeating: we bet on the wrong horse. WE supported Erdogan as he took down Turkey on the path of dictatorship (as we did Sisi in Egypt.)So let’s not finger Erdogan and Turkey unless we are willing to discuss our role in these events.

  19. Take the nukes out of Turkey and take Turkey out of NATO. Boycott Saudi Arabia.

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